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Thursday, February 24 • 11:00am - 11:30am
Track 1: Desert Avicaching: Combining Community Science and Technology for Bird Conservation

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The Mojave Desert of southern California is home to a rich biodiversity of birds. It also faces increasing pressure from alternative energy development, climate change, and other factors. Habitat loss and degradation from these threats has led to a decline in bird populations. Collectively, arid land bird populations in the United States have declined 43% since 1968. There is an urgent need to improve our understanding of bird population status and trends in this region, but insufficient funding to conduct broad-scale ecological monitoring. In 2018, the Sonoran Joint Venture, Point Blue Conservation Science, and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology created Desert Avicaching, a game that combines the idea of geocaching with bird observation and the community science eBird platform. The goal: to gather data about bird use of areas under pressure from solar energy development to help guide management and conservation decisions. We used knowledge of birder interests and desires to develop a game that enticed birding at “avicaches” (new and underbirded eBird hotspots) where we needed information about bird status and distribution. We developed a strategic communications plan, identifying target audiences, key messages, and avenues for delivering those messages. To promote the game we gave presentations to Audubon groups and birding clubs to recruit participants. We also created a social media toolkit that the Sonoran JV and other partners used to promote the game. In recruiting participants and promoting Desert Avicaching, we highlighted the adventure aspect and the opportunity to bird in places where no one had previously submitted an eBird checklist. We also made it into a friendly competition with the addition of a leaderboard and added the enticement of prizes in the form of binoculars, t-shirts, hats, and conservation organization memberships. Over the course of six months, 72 birders submitted over 400 checklists, documenting over 140 species of birds. We estimate that avicachers contributed more than 500 hours of their time and approximately $2500 in mileage to travel to and from desert avicaching locations. Biologists are now analyzing the resulting data with the goal of using it to provide input on land management decisions and inform habitat mitigation projects. Through the use of social science, we learned that with the right incentives, we can influence birder behavior in ways that contribute to conservation.

Thursday February 24, 2022 11:00am - 11:30am MST
Room 1

Attendees (5)